Sex and love are ways of being intimate and establishing connections with another person. But a person with sex and love addictions uses them for the opposite reason. A person with sex or love addiction uses sex and love in unhealthy ways to avoid making real connections with another person.
Sex and love addictions can happen together or separate. They also share some of the same symptoms. So, how can you tell if you have a sex addiction, a love addiction, or both?
Learning the differences in the signs is critical to understand which addiction you have. Knowing whether you have sex or love addiction or both means you can begin recovery.
What is an Intimacy Disorder?
An intimacy disorder is when a person fears developing emotional connections with others. Regardless of the type of emotional connection, it frightens them. They avoid opportunities to be their authentic self and stunt the growth of attachment to another person.
People with intimacy disorders engage in this behavior because they’re afraid to be vulnerable. It’s their way of protecting themselves and likely results from childhood attachment styles and trauma.
Sex and love addiction are intimacy disorders. Sex addiction is when a person uses sexually compulsive behavior to avoid real connection. Love addiction is when a person has an excessive interest in romantic partners but fails to truly connect with anyone. Both disorders affect a person’s ability to function in their day-to-day life.
Shared symptoms of sex and love addiction include:
- Low self-esteem
- Prevalent trust issues
- Episodes of extreme emotions such as anger or fear
- A difficulty forming or committing to relationships
- Difficulty expressing or sharing emotions
What is Sex Addiction?
Like with substance use disorder, those with sex addiction chase a dopamine rush from their acts.
Signs of sex addiction include:
- Obsessive and overwhelming thoughts about sex and sexual acts
- Prioritizing sexual desires over day-to-day responsibilities
- Feeling depression or shame about sexual acts
- Avoiding activities that do not include sex
- Engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors
- Hiding sexual behaviors
- Ignoring the consequences of sexual behaviors
- Repeated and failed attempts to curb or stop sexual activities
Past trauma is the foundation of sex addiction.
What is Love Addiction?
Love addiction is also known as “pathological love.” It is an obsessive feeling of falling in and being in love, even absent of a real connection.
Signs of love addiction include:
- Obsessing over romantic interests or potential partners
- The inability to be alone without some romantic attachment
- Consistently seeking out and chasing new love interests
- Feeling the need to always be in love
- An intense feeling of euphoria at the prospect of a new love attachment
- Losing interest in a new partner when attachment forms
- Using new relationships to hide from negative emotions or situations
There are various types of love addiction, according to author and counselor Susan Peabody.
The four types of love addiction are:
- Obsessed/Obsessive. When a person struggles with differentiation and detaching from partners. They continue to pursue a partner even if the relationship is unhealthy. They are afraid to leave because they are afraid of being alone.
- Codependent. A person with codependency uses their partner to elevate or validate their self-worth or self-esteem. They may pursue partners who also have addictions or are emotionally unavailable, seeking to “fix” them.
- Narcissistic. This person puts themselves in a place of power within a relationship. They exploit their partner, relying on them as a source of ego-boosting attention and servitude. They also may ignore their partner or act out in selfish ways.
- Ambivalent/Avoidant. When a person is love avoidant, they fear and avoid intimacy. They may find themselves unable to shake memories of past affairs. They may pursue emotionally unavailable partners. They also may frequently find themselves in situations of unrequited love. They may even sabotage their relationships when they begin to form a connection. They do this to avoid authentic intimacy. They’re pursuing the illusion of a relationship but fear anyone getting too close.
These types of love addiction fall in line with attachment theory and styles of attachment. These models of interaction form during our childhood. They create the script for how people relate to others in their lives.
The Relationship Between Trauma and Addiction
Trauma is the root cause of sex and love addictions.
As a child, you need your primary caregiver. They are your source of love and attention and are there to validate your emotions. They also need to provide you with daily essentials.
If your primary caregivers were unable or unwilling to fulfill those needs, you might have trauma or suffered from a lack of attunement.
This trauma taught you to seek out love and validation, either through self-pleasure or others. It was your way of surviving your adverse childhood experiences. You did the best you could to get what you needed. These learned behaviors stayed with you from childhood.
Intimacy disorders can prevent you from developing healthy attachments and relationships. Sex and love addiction symptoms are pervasive in every aspect of your life. They can leave you feeling vulnerable and hurt.
You can heal. But, to heal, you need to treat your addiction at the source.
How BAI Can Help
Treatment starts with identifying the root causes of your intimacy disorder. You learn your triggers and how to prevent yourself from choosing compulsive, harmful behaviors.
Allowing yourself to heal from the inside out is one of the pillars of our trauma-informed practice. It is not only effective but creates lasting results.
If you’re ready to heal from your sex or love addiction, you don’t need to wait. Contact us to start your recovery.